By Corey Boles, Dow Jones Newswires
WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- Rep. John Mica (R., Fla.) set an ambitious goal of passing a long-term extension of the program that underpins federal regulation of the commercial airline industry by the end of the year.
The chairman of the House Transportation Committee told reporters Monday that he believed the outstanding issues that House and Senate lawmakers disagree on could be resolved by year’s end to allow a four-year extension of the program to be agreed to.
The current short-term law underpinning the Federal Aviation Administration expires on Jan. 30, 2012, after a four-month deal was crafted in September that narrowly averted a partial shut-down of the aviation industry. The FAA has been operating under a series temporary extensions since 2007 due to the failure of lawmakers to reach a longer-term compromise.
The bill deals with a raft of issues affecting the aviation industry: everything from docking slots at airports that are highly sought after by commercial carriers, to the question of labor organization at logistics companies like FedEx Corp. (FDX) to levels of federal subsidies paid to carriers that service rural parts of the country. It also sets in place funding levels for construction and repair projects at airports across the country.
Mica was less confident about reaching a long-term agreement by the end of the year to ensure long-term funding for transportation infrastructure projects like roads and bridge repairs. The Florida Republican favors a six-year extension of the program, but acknowledged there is a $75 billion to $100 billion shortfall in funding levels due to lower revenues collected by a federal gasoline tax.
Senate Democrats are trying to find bipartisan agreement on a two-year extension of the Surface Transportation Act, which governs federal highway funding. Mica dismissed this approach, saying state and local governments who determine which projects to pursue funding for want long term certainty in funding. Otherwise, he said, they would continue to avoid major projects and instead push forward with less significant projects that don’t involve multi-year funding needs.
Mica also rejected a Democratic proposal to pass a $50 billion bill to spend more on transportation infrastructure projects as a means to create jobs in the construction industry. He said there was still more than $20 billion left unspent from the $63 billion in infrastructure funding that was included in 2009’s economic recovery act. He said that until the system was streamlined to allow for more rapid approval of construction and repair projects, the idea that there were thousands of “shovel-ready” projects around the country was not accurate.
Source: Fox Business